Local Prosthetic Designer Will Travel With U.S Paralympic Team To Rio

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Inside of Total Rehab in Fort Smith, Francois Van Der Watt has an office where he designs prosthetics.

"It's rewarding to see someone feeling down and not knowing what's next, and then see them take their first step and then get back to their life they led before," Van Der Watt said.

His passion to design and alter prosthetics first led him to his involvement with the Olympics in 2008, when he was asked to join a camp for a Paralympic team.

"Through my work and athletes whom I've worked with, they kept asking me to come back," he said.

Van Der Watt returned to the Olympics in 2012, traveling to London.

"Worked with Oscar Pistorius with the legs he was running in London," Van Der Watt said. "We manufactured those for him."

As the Olympics head to Rio, Van Der Watt will once again return. He will be there to support the U.S. Paralympic team.

"My real duty or responsibility will be as a support for the athletes," he said. "The worst case, anything goes wrong, then I'm there to fix it."

Until he leaves for Rio in September, there is work to be done here at home for Van Der Watt. Things like helping fit future Olympic hopeful Cody Johnson, who lost his left leg two years ago after a rifle malfunctioned while he was holding it.

"At the time, being in the Paralympics wasn't even, that wasn't even a thought. It was getting back into running and possibly doing small 5ks here and there," Johnson said.

He said the more time he spent watching athletes perform and talking with Van Der Watt, competing in the 2020 Olympics became a goal for him.

"I'm definitely going to put in the work," he said. "If I don't make it, I don't. But it's not going to be short of effort."


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